Nuritzi Sanchez

Sr. Open Source Program Manager at GitLab

November 2020

Nuritzi makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from November 25 to December 02. Thank you, Nuritzi!

Please tell us about yourself

I’m currently the Sr. Open Source Program Manager at GitLab where I run the GitLab for Open Source program. I love the work I’m doing because I’m helping make GitLab even better for open source communities and also get to offer them our top tiers for free through this program.

I have also helped organize the Linux App Summit (LAS) since we started it in 2016, and we just had the 2020 version earlier this month, from November 12th - 14th. LAS is a conference that’s co-hosted by GNOME and KDE, two of the largest Linux desktop communities in the world, and it’s aimed at expanding the Linux application ecosystem. It went really well and had lots of interesting talks that are now published on the LAS YouTube channel.

I am also part of the App Ecosystem Working Group at the CHAOSS Project, which defines open source community health metrics. The App Ecosystem group focuses on defining metrics that open source foundations like GNOME and KDE can put in place as they continue to work on expanding the Linux app ecosystem. We recently published an article to help open source communities measure the success of their events and you can check it out here: Success metrics for open source events.

What is most interesting about that?

I really enjoy thinking about the big picture and finding ways to collaborate across FOSS projects. While I started off working only within the GNOME community, I’ve chosen to work on things that will benefit others in the Linux desktop community through my work with LAS, others that are working on FOSS apps in general through my work at CHAOSS, and things that will benefit all FOSS orgs in general through my work at GitLab.

How did you first discover FOSS?

I first learned about FOSS when I worked at Endless, a company that creates Linux-based computers for users with little to no internet access. I ended up getting really plugged into the GNOME community since Endless wanted to contribute upstream.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

My first entry point was helping to organize a hackfest for GNOME contributors around topics that were interesting to both Endless and GNOME (this hackfest eventually evolved into the Linux App Summit). I met members of the GNOME community in person and thought they were awesome.

A year or so later, my manager and FOSS mentor, Jonathan Blandford (@blandford), encouraged me to submit a talk about usability and cultural considerations when building software to GUADEC, the annual GNOME conference. My talk was accepted and while I was a bit nervous about going to a very developer-centric conference as a non-developer, I found that everyone was very welcoming and that people were genuinely interested in the subject I was talking about.

I participated in some awesome social events which made me realize how fun the GNOME community was, and I was also able to immediately contribute to BoFs that I participated in. As a result of my experience at that GUADEC, I ended up becoming a core member of the Engagement Team, and later on, I became the President and Chairperson of the Board of Directors because of my work on the Engagement team.

Why should others get involved with FOSS and how should they get started?

There are so many reasons to get involved! For me, a lot of it had to do with professional development, being part of an awesome community, and working on a project that reached millions of people around the world.

I have given a few speeches this year about this topic, and I’ve been pitching OSS Engagement as being one of the easiest areas where people can get started. Here’s a link to my presentation for the Onboarding Africa event.

People can start contributing to FOSS projects by simply amplifying what’s happening in the community. Also, by using their experience as newcomers, people can join FOSS Engagement teams and help make it easier for people to onboard onto the project and get started. It helps them, and others, at the same time.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

One of the hot topics is about the sustainability of FOSS projects. Sustainability refers to how projects can continue to operate and grow in a healthy manner. It touches upon questions like: how can you make sure that contributors don’t burn out, how do you secure enough funding for projects to grow, and how can you compensate contributors for the time they spend working in FOSS.

Another challenge is diversity and inclusion in FOSS, since FOSS projects have even less diversity than the larger software field, which is already lacking. I’m really glad to see this topic gain more awareness in recent years and I hope that we’ll continue to raise its priority for our communities.

How can they be solved?

There are lots of people working on the topic of sustainability. Here are some communities and organizations that I associate with this topic:

  • Sustain OSS - A really diverse community bringing members from small FOSS projects and corporate open source entities together to talk about how to make FOSS more sustainable
  • CHAOSS Project - Developing community health metrics to help people understand the value of open source and help FOSS projects build more healthy communities
  • Open Collective - A platform that helps communities collect and spend money transparently
  • Tidelift - Allows companies to purchase a subscription to maintain their FOSS dependencies by paying project maintainers for the work they do

As for addressing the challenges around diversity and inclusion, I think that it all begins with awareness and elevating the priority of this topic for FOSS communities. Workshops and training sessions are critical for helping more people understand the importance and get trained. I think that FOSS leaders and all staff at FOSS orgs should undergo training, so that it then trickles down into the community. In addition, I love seeing dedicated tracks around this subject at conferences and events, as well as things like inclusivity lounges, where people are invited to hang out and have an extra safe and welcoming space within a larger conference.

A way I’ve tried to contribute recently is by speaking about things like Collaborative Communication as a way to help communities work together in a better way. I think that having workshops around skills like this would really help communities and I’d love to see more of them happening!

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

Onboarding new contributors is a challenge for many FOSS communities. I think that it’s important to dedicate a lot of time and effort to this topic. Just like companies have entire departments focused on the people aspect – hiring, onboarding, making sure they have a good experience – it’s just as important, if not more so, for FOSS projects.

The new generation of contributors also seems to have a lower tolerance of bad user experiences, and so many of the older FOSS projects (and even the new ones), should think about the tools they’re using for their work. When FOSS projects use multiple tools, each with different sign-ons and learning curves, or tools that don’t have a good user experience, then it’s harder for newcomers to get started and fully participate.

This is why I’m so excited to be working at GitLab. As someone who’s been in product management, program / project management, and operations, and have worked closely with just about all functions within an organization – I think GitLab is a great tool for cross-functional team collaboration and for building enterprise-grade software.

I’ve seen this firsthand both at GNOME when we adopted GitLab for all teams including the Engagement team and the Board of Directors, and at GitLab where all departments use it, including ones you normally wouldn’t think would like HR, Marketing, and Sales.

I also really appreciate GitLab’s handbook-first approach where everyone documents EVERYTHING – not only how the product works. This helps newcomers to GitLab jump right in and I think it’s something that more FOSS projects should adopt to make it easier to grow their communities.

What does a perfect day off look like?

I love getting outside into nature! Right now, it’s a bit harder with the pandemic, but I really enjoy hiking with my husky-malamute, Nova. A perfect day off for me depends on where I am since I split my time between California and Germany.

On a perfect day off, I’d sleep in since I’m not an early bird, go on a hike / get outdoors, have a meal with friends or family, and then get a Netflix session in before bed. I’d probably sneak some wine in there too because, well, it’s delicious.